Social anxiety is no fun but there is hope. There are things you can do to get you through social situations, like:
✔️ask good questions
✔️maintain eye contact, and
✔️don’t overshare or monopolize the conversation.
And to develop even more confidence, the type of confidence that comes from within, where you don’t need to rely on the above social crutches forever, there are other things you can do. This post is about those things…a more permanent fix.
To put social anxiety behind you, read on to learn what you can do regularly that will help you to be more confident around new people.
1. Get out of the house.
Shy and socially awkward people tend to hide away from the world, but this is self-sabotaging behavior. It does more damage than you can imagine. You need to have a life so you will have things to talk about. Get out of the house and get involved in your community—take classes, join local sports teams, volunteer. This will give you stories to tell, and not surprisingly, it will increase your confidence too.
Meditation has a noise-canceling effect on our inner critic. In fact, it arguably works so well, that meditation can turn your inner critic into an ally over time. Meditating for as little as 2-5 minutes a day, or every time you feel overwhelmed, can yield significant changes in your mood and thought patterns.
To get started just sit or lie comfortably, close your eyes, and breathe naturally. Clear your mind and if you begin to wander off in your thoughts, especially undesirable ones, simply refocus on your breath.
As with all habits, it’s a consistent practice that’s going to transform you. A consistent meditation practice will help you stay out of your head, and allow you to be more present in social situations.
3. Think well of others.
If you think poorly of others in general, you’ll expect them to generally behave poorly. But if you think well of others, you’ll expect others to act well. 100% of people won’t act the way you hope and expect, but you won’t be carrying around a bad impression and projecting it socially. Most people are on their best behavior socially anyway, because they don’t expect to be judged.
Thinking well of others will make you a more cordial person, will make you less defensive, and remove that chip from your shoulder.
4. Believe in yourself.
Contrary to popular belief, confidence isn’t about being cool or captivating a crowd. It’s simply about being OK with what you do and who you are, no matter what that means.
Examine limiting beliefs you may have picked up from society and others. Use resources like therapy, daily affirmations, and books like Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice to help you see yourself positively. And speak up! Ask questions, share ideas when you have something to contribute.
It a myth that because you’re an introvert, your voice is less valid. We all have value and worth. Challenge negative opinions and messages, including from social media, that suggests otherwise.
Note: According to research, using social media obsessively causes more than just anxiety and self-comparisons. It can cause negative self-perception.
According to research, reading makes people more interesting and empathetic. There are many people, myself included, who find intelligent people more interesting. The same research also shows that reading can make you more confident. As Susan Cain writes in Psychology Today, “Books are one of the few media to portray introverts as intellectually and emotionally aflame, as opposed to aloof, flawed, or dull.
6. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
Shy people usually hate when the attention is on them. So, ironically, when they make a blunder, they’ll draw attention to their embarrassment (and themselves), which makes others uncomfortable.
Remember, everyone makes gaffes and some embarrassing moments can even be used to your advantage socially—if you don’t take yourself too seriously.
From now on, think of most gaffes (or things that play in your head as embarrassing), as opportunities. Take a curious or humorous approach instead of trying to be the person with all the answers. If you botch the pronunciation of Balmain, don’t carry on as if no one noticed or get embarrassed. Use it to your advantage and admit your mistake. Simply laugh it off and ask, “How do you pronounce Balmain?” Or ask, “Did I pronounce that right?”
If you say right when you meant left, lighten the mood by saying, “I meant my other right.”
7. Dress your best.
Studies show that people like people who dress like them. Other studies show the clothes you wear affect how you perform. So if you think about it: dressing well is a no-brainer! Once you look the part, there will be one less thing on your mind to feel self-conscious about.
How can you tell whether these habits are working and if you’re becoming more engaging?
You can tell your efforts are working when you don’t feel the need to try so hard. Your smile will feel more natural. You’ll ask more interesting questions and won’t feel the need to interrupt others to make your point.
Christine is a Life Strategist and Emotional Health Coach living in Los Angeles. She's big on meditation and believes in systems and routines, and in personalizing everything you do to help you get where you want to be.